Orientation is over. It's time to settle in to this year's schedule and prepare for week after week of class. Don't know about you but I'm pretty excited. This week we'll be tackling "Geography of Global Conflict" with Professor Cligoris... Yes, either pronunciation is fine.
What the show does brilliantly (and to differ itself from a lot of other sitcoms of late) is eschew the cold open for a longer, plot planting opening act. Community, as I mentioned last week, is nothing if not wonderfully and intricately structured. Like a great episode of Seinfeld, each character may have their own narrative thread but in the end, they all ravel into the same ball. This week's opener smoothly sets up our dual narratives or...
"Spoiler alert. Somebody just won a ride on the wheelchair" plus "she's got a facebook group" and "I can't wait to get some brains on this bad boy."
The show jumps right into the main conflict, the one that will bring most of the group along for the ride, and that's the introduction of an Asian Annie and the ensuing rivalry with our beloved Annie 'Adderall.' We also get the pleasure of meeting this week's guest star, one of my personal favorite supporting comedians, Martin Starr as Professor Cligoris and self-proclaimed 'Model U.N. Guy' (but don't research that). Secondly, we get an odd Britta - Chang narrative that provides a lot of laughs. Britta, in her typical pursuit of the 'non-conformist' persona, feels a little too settled down when she spies a pamphlet to free 'The Damascus Three.' Of course, she doesn't care about any of the issues, merely the posturing, and her jealous competitive side rears its ugly head. A common theme for Annie and Britta this week. Chang's also feeling frustrated in his new position of (a lack of) authority. Just when he's ready to bust in some skulls with his new flash-light he learns the harsh, garbage can watching reality of being a college rent-a-cop. Britta on the loose, Chang looking to abuse his power - I smell a showdown. "I swear they're just for sex!"
"Wow Annie, how progressive of you to have a multi-cultural evil twin."
Oh, Alison Brie and her slow but steady path to freaking out. Annie vs. Annie is a great conflict with a lot of laughs as well as most of Martin Starr's scenes, which certainly doesn't hurt. I will say, the whole Jeff 'kiddo' but with Annie this week seems like a set-back. Their relationship is way past that even though the awkward exit was quite hilarious. And maybe the best line of the episode might have been Jeff's "you're acting like a little school-girl and not in a hot way." The Annie showdown, model U.N. vs model U.N., leads to its inevitable and rational conclusion as suggested by Cligoris, "a head to head model U.N. battle royale, the rules to which I'll have to spend the evening devising." Place our group members in their respective countries and let the battle begin. That is, after a brief clarification on the nature of the two Earths, to be clear they are not parallel Earths in different galaxies but identical Earths in parallel dimensions.
The actual events of the U.N. showdown, namely the floating heads, endless fart joke and Garrett screaming, were less effective. And then, the flip-out. Can anyone lose it quite like Alison Brie? "I wanna win [breakdown to gibberish]" cue the creepy Jeff line and, exit stage right. After a heartfelt make-up (and awkward chin holding) between Annie and Jeff, there's the wonderful Spartacus fart moment that really brings them all back together (minus Britta... for now) just in time for Abed to save the day. Sneaking in some mild political jabs, not to mention an always welcome science-fiction twist, the group wins the battle royale using Abed's two Earth's conceit ("the science works out") and Cligoris' understanding of the true nature of the United Nations, "a fundamentally symbolic organization, founded on the principles of high minded rhetoric and empty gestures." Yes, declared the winner just in time to watch Britta, uh, well I'm not sure what she was doing but let's go back and go over the Britta-Chang story. "Did someone say can't do anything?"
"You're as much a criminal as this idiot is a cop."
This was a surprisingly funny conflict between Britta and Chang, two characters you wouldn't normally associated with each other. With Britta on the hunt to feel more like the rebellious and conscientious protester and Chang looking for any way to find meaning in his new position as campus security, they find each other. It's almost beautiful, except it's absolutely ridiculous. From their first 'hello' before heated encounter over a garbage can, a warning and a an attempt to eat a written warning to their final tasing showdown it plays out wonderfully (crazily). But, I'm getting ahead of myself as Britta and Chang's showdown had the same inevitability and slow-burn as Annie's outburst.
It began with Britta finding out an old cohort was getting tased while held prisoner in foreign lands while Chang's stuck guarding the garbage. Cue 'Hello' by Lionel Ritchie and a mouth full of paper. The 'protests' continue to escalate with Britta outside the U.N. battal royale, locked in a cage, pouring red paint all over a globe. I know, the symbolism is haunting. Chang's not going to take that, instead he's going to drag her, uh, downtown? The college security equivalent anyway, "are we facebooking this?" Only, the rivalry may not be all Chang hoped. Has Britta softened? She has a major and highlighters now. Don't worry, soon a brick, with an ill-positioned letter attached, comes sailing into Chang's office announcing what should be a real concern for campus security. He gets to show that hippie how the world really works, or at least show up and tase her in the middle of her unitard wearing, doll draped, chanting dance. When he carries he away, definitely the most endearing spit to the face I've ever seen. I was almost moved to tears.
"I told you to stop playing Operation on me, I'm not your damn board game."
The tag is short and not really that sweet. In one of their weaker efforts (I smell a Chevy Chase gag), Abed and Troy use Pierce as their personal game of 'Operation.' I will give Chevy credit on nailing the buzzer, other than that, I expect (read: want) more from Glover and Pudi. However, it was great to see Pierce back as the clueless racist/misogynist/whateverist instead of the spiteful Season 2. In fact, he even got two laughs. I vote Martin Starr for best comedy guest star (yes, puns!) ever.
"How's my smile."
"You be careful Annie, they are ruthless! What? Not Asians, women."
"Looks like someone woke up on the regular side of the bed."
"Oh goody a new path, is it lined with credit cards and flat-screen TVs. Does it go by an Ikea? Maybe I don't want a new path. Or any path, maybe my path is a war path that leads to the Terror Dome, N-Words! Okay, maybe I went too far. Maybe, I don't want to offend my African-American friends but the larger point is [excessive hand waving], maybe I'm not done raging against the machine!"
"I piss warnings, pig! [chews paper, spits it out] And that's how we do that."
"A sneak attack! That's just like, not women, Asians."
Troy switching cups on the antsy Annie.
"Boutros Boutros Ghali!"
"Earth 2 is out there, we can't ignore it forever."
"Whoever actually died a few months ago, fess up so we can put a stake through your heart."
"There's nothing to be Zambia about."
"We did it."
"Did someone say, can't do anything?"
Community airs on NBC, Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT